The annual general sports meet of your company had you huffing and puffing away till the finish line, the event being a piddly little 50 meters running race! Soon you find yourself bending down with your hands on the knees for support, sweating like you ran a 10,000 meters race and you can feel your heart beating like a gong throughout your body… Do you know, what these signs point toward? They point towards an unhealthy individual who needs to start doing cardio exercise to strengthen his heart, lose weight and become healthy!
What is Cardio?
Cardio is a form of aerobic exercise that improves blood circulation and blood flow in the entire body by increasing one’s heart rate. It seeks to do so by means of steady and ample repetitions of the arms and legs to tone muscles and also increase the individual’s heart rate in the process. Cardio exercise has many forms such as spot jogging, walking or running on the treadmill, cycling, swimming, rowing, skipping etc.
What makes Cardio so beneficial as compared to other forms of exercise?
While saying that cardio is better than other forms of exercise would be unfair, it does have its own set of benefits which make it a good stepping stone into the world of fitness for beginners! Cardio succeeds in improving fitness levels and reducing weight mainly due to its two salient features:
One of the defining characteristic of Cardio exercise is the demand for moderate intensity. To derive the most out of cardio exercises one needs to perform them with moderate intensity, which gradually increases the heart rate and warms up the body, indicating an improved blood circulation.
The American Health Association states that cardio exercises should be done at 50-70 % of the maximum capacity of an individual. To calculate one’s maximum efficiency or maximum heat rate, one needs to subtract their age from 226 for women and 220 for men.
For e.g. If your age is 22 years and you are a female, you would subtract 22 from 226 which comes up to 204 heart beats, which is your maximum heart rate. While cardio suggests a moderate intensity equaling 50-70 % of your maximum efficiency, you should multiply 0.5 or 0.7 with your 204 i.e. your maximum heart rate. The answer will be the ideal heart rate you should aspire to reach during your work outs, 142 heart beats in this case!
- 30 Minute flexible time frame
Another salient feature that makes cardio beneficial is the 30 minute flexible time frame. Experts point out that an elevated heart rate for 30 minutes is greatly beneficial for burning your calories, raising your metabolic rate and also improve your heart and lung’s health.
Plus the flexibility offered by cardio, takes off the pressure of completing the required work out in one go, you can exercise for 15 minutes in the morning and complete the remaining 15 minutes in the evening or afternoons, achieving the same effects that a work out completed in one go would have bought!
What are the benefits that I will derive from doing Cardio?
Cardio or the short for Cardiovascular exercises are considered very beneficial due to the barrage of benefits they offer, right from weight loss to protection against cardiovascular diseases!
Following is a list of benefits that can be derived from doing Cardio,
Weight Loss and Weight Control:
Cardio exercises are aimed at the Target heart rate (THR) and seek to gradually improve it along with blood circulation, as once the heart beats reach the THR the body begins to burn calories more efficiently. Moreover the benefits do not end with the workout as is seen in most other exercise forms, in fact cardio done for the stipulated 30 minutes even 3 days a week is enough to increase the body’s metabolic rate. This makes cardio greatly beneficial as with an improved metabolic rate, the body burns more calories even when it is not exercising!
Strengthens the Heart and Lungs:
Cardio exercise strengthens the individual’s heart and lungs by increasing the heart beat rate by aiming to achieve the THR. Once the body achieves THR it forces the heart to pump more blood to cope with the improved blood circulation, this result in the heart being exercised; a regular cardio regime’s main aim is to strengthen the heart muscles, making the heart healthy in the process. A healthy heart automatically translates to a drop in blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels – LDL along with an increase in good cholesterol levels –HDL.
Similarly Cardio exercises with their steady and repeated actions account for an increased oxygen intake due to a rise in the heart rate. This increased oxygen intake helps expand your lungs, exercising them in the process and improving their endurance too.
Protects against diseases:
Cardio exercises improve the blood circulation of an individual, which helps protect them from a varied range of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. An improved blood circulation also helps maintain their bone density, protecting them from osteoporosis, especially as they age.
Cardio exercises can be done in a wide variety of forms such as running, walking, jogging, skipping, swimming, rowing etc. Alternating between these exercises helps one to improve their flexibility and also helps them tone their muscles.
Cardio also helps reduce stress, as any moderately strenuous activity that improves blood circulation results in the production of ‘serotonin’, the body’s very own feel-good hormones, putting you in a very calm, happy, stress free state of mind!
Helps those with Diabetes:
Cardio exercise is greatly beneficial for those with diabetes as with repeated repetitions of the arms and legs; the muscles are given a work out. This process results in an increase in the muscles ability to utilize glucose better. A regular workout ensures that glucose levels don’t rise thereby protecting the diabetic from rapid swings in their body insulin levels.
So now that you know of the benefits derived from Cardio, take heart that the next time you run at a sports meet you’ll be smiling at the finish line rather than huffing and puffing!